Even as there are many who will roll their eyes and say, “Yes, of course, we knew from the beginning,” there is, for me, still something profoundly difficult and profoundly sad about this moment. For me, like for for many young, progressive American Jews I know, J Street was once a home. In 2008-9, when Israel conducted its horrible bombing campaign on Gaza then, J Street was one of the few American Jewish organizations willing to criticize the “operation.”
They wrote: ”We urge leaders there to recognize that there is no military solution to what is fundamentally a political conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”
They wrote: “Today’s IDF strikes will deepen the cycle of violence in the region.”
They wrote: “We need to remember that only diplomacy and negotiations can end the rockets and terror and bring Israel long-term security and peace.”
That was in 2009.
And then, in what seems like a culmination of J Street losing its courage, its genuine commitment to peace, and its soul (here was my take on J Street losing direction 2012, and here was my hopeful post this past May that maybe, just maybe, the failure of negotiations and J Street’s rejection from the Conference of Presidents would compel the once-progressive organization to wake up and return to its roots), J Street published its take on this most recent assault on Gaza.
In a statement called “J Street Expresses Solidarity with Israelis under Rocket Fire,” they essentially gave the Israeli government a carte-blanche to continue as it has been in Gaza: “We fully endorse Israel’s right to defend its people from these reprehensible attacks.” As an aside, they added “We also feel for the Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are caught in the middle of this tragic conflict.”
In other words, the “pro-peace,” approval-starved J Street has just given its blessing to this a manufactured, cynical and murderous campaign by the Israeli army and government. With negotiations failed, J Street has chosen to become, simply, a Pro-Israel lobby, forget the peace part. (Their “tragic conflict” framing is perfectly Ari Shavit-ian, which is telling).
It saddens me to say this. I am angry and disappointed and feel tricked. Four years ago, J Street gained support and membership and spirit from young American Jews who felt angry and disappointed and tricked by the American Jewish Establishment. Today, J Street has declared that it is more interested in being part of the American Jewish Establishment than working for peace.
No more equivocating: J Street is no longer a home for anyone genuinely committed to peace.
Maybe J Street will wake up, apologize, retract their statements, and reform.
Until then, though, those of us truly seeking peace for all people in this region must look elsewhere. J Street is not a home for pro-Peace Americans.